Letter Writing Fading to Black

When did you last write someone a real letter?

This is what my nephew, Zack, asked me last week. One of his friends said she would really love to get a letter in the mail. So Zack wrote her a letter and sent it to her through the mail. It will be a very nice surprise for her one day this week.

I used to write letters to my older relatives, the Grandmothers and their sisters (my Great-Aunts). The last of them have been gone for years and it’s been about that long ago that I wrote a letter. Unless letters sent with Christmas cards count, I haven’t written a letter just for the sake of writing a letter in seven years I’m guessing. Kind of sad.

I know my nephew and nieces would love to have a letter arrive in the mail, kids always do. But I probably won’t write one. Email is so much easier, takes less time and doesn’t require postage or stationery.

The loss of letter writing is something we shouldn’t take too lightly. If you think about it, when was the last time you wrote anything by hand? A list doesn’t count. I wonder if someday penmanship, cursive writing and just plain handwriting will become something no longer taught in schools, no longer thought of as mainstream or of much importance at all. We type things far more than we write them out in long hand. This is good for some things, it is more accurate, less likely to be misread. It’s faster too.

People talk about print becoming something in the past. But, I take it a step in another direction and I can see handwriting becoming a lost art, a forgotten skill.

By the way… do you know which is which between stationary and stationery? Stationery, with an E, is the one for letters and envelopes which tend to come in pretty patterns in a pretty pattern box. Just think of the E which is also in letters and envelopes. Stationary with an A is about staying still.

I like this quote from The Art of Manliness, about letter writing:

The writing and reception of letters will always offer an experience that modern technology cannot touch. Twitter is effective for broadcasting what you’re eating for lunch, and email is fantastic for quick exchanges on the most pertinent pieces of information. But when it comes to sharing one’s true thoughts, sincere sympathies, ardent love, and deepest gratitude, words traveling along an invisible superhighway will never suffice. Why? Because sending a letter is the next best thing to showing up personally at someone’s door.

Extra Resources:

365 Letters – A blog about letter writing, mail art and postcards. Carla says: I’m a writer who has taken on the ambitious project of writing a letter every day in 2009 as a way to keep in touch with all of my friends and family.

Letter Writers Alliance – An organization dedicated to keeping the art of letter writing alive. World wide membership.

The Modern Letter Project – “It is our hope that, at end of the year each participant in the project will have a network of new pen pals, friends, and a collection of letters to treasure, and as a group, the art of letter-writing will explore new intersections between letter-writing with art and technology.”

Flickr: The Art of Letter Writing

Flickr: Letter Lovers

Ideas for Writing Christmas Cards

We send out Christmas cards each year, sometimes we get them done with enough time for them to be mailed and even arrive by the big day (sometimes I don’t). One thing I wish I had more time to do was actually write a note of some kind along with the card. So, I went looking for some ideas I could use. I wanted something more interesting than the typical newsletter style. Though that can be fun too if you design it like your own zine. A zine is a non-professional (amateur/ indie) magazine, kind of a retro thing.

Anyway, here are the ideas that appeal to me (along with some of my own ideas). I have written this for people with family but these could all work just as well if you are single and have only yourself to talk about (as I am myself).

  • Change perspective. Write as if you were someone else. You can go so far as to make it a True Confessions type of thing, telling all the comings and goings as reported by your babysitter or the neighbour across the street with the really big binoculars.
  • Pick different characteristics about yourself or each family member and write a list of the geekiest thing I did this year, or the most romantic thing that happened this year, or the most carefully planned and organized thing I did this year, or the most stubborn, the most optimistic, the most creative…
  • Write it as if you are a year in the future, or ten years in the future, looking back on this year. I remember that year…
  • Make it all up. Go all the way. Put in a note saying it is all fictional at the end or the beginning, if you desire. (Though you may want to not send anything too elaborate to relatives who tend to be gullible or need things explained, slowly).
  • Use the alphabet or the letters of a word (Christmas for instance) and write a point about something starting with each letter.
  • Write the family news as if it were an ad for something: a new car, laundry soap or a movie coming to a theatre near you! Make it exciting, give it a commercial spin, sell it!
  • Write it all as a poem, rhyme it. Or use some style of verse, like haiku. (Haiku may take some thought and planning but it is short to write out if you are working with pen and paper rather than using a printer).
  • Give them a test, try a quiz about your family or Christmas itself. See what they know about the old, traditional holiday. Stick in some family news here and there, where it has some relevance to your quiz question.
  • Get inspired by Talk Like a Pirate day and write the Christmas card in Pirate speak, in the style of a Borg or some other character from history or fiction.
  • Make a top ten list. Go through the family news from the past year and pick out ten things you really want people to know. Turn them into a list. Or be a bit silly and go with something like the top ten things the members of your family don’t want for Christmas, etc.
  • Create a timeline of things that have happened in Christmases past in your family and your extended family. Christmas is a nice time to remember things everyone felt happy about in the past.
  • Send some heart warming quotes about family, holidays and the good times and things in life. You can even get each family member to think of a quote (their own words).
  • Get each family member to pick something that happened in the year past and write about it themselves. Then add all the notes together to go out with the cards.
  • Use this as a mass thank you note to family members who have helped you and your family. Give credit for small and big favours in a way that everyone can read about how you appreciate the help given. Let family know if you still need help or not. Or, ask if others need help, pass along the goodwill.
  • Personalize each card with a short note. Kind of getting back to the newsletter idea but it does give you a sincere connection to each person you are writing to. Of course, you may only see some of then once a year and not really have much of a personal nature to write about.
  • If you have children get them to draw Christmas artwork which can be mailed out with the cards. This is a nice way to get the kids busy and yourself off the hook for writing anything more than “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” in each card.
  • Send a postcard, or print a family photo and send that in the card instead of written contents. You can also do something with scrapbooking, graphic arts or drawing – as long as it will easily fit inside the envelope. Try some mail art on the envelope too.

If nothing on my list really works for you, at least it may give you inspiration for ideas of your own. Let me know what you think of in comments here. You may have just the right idea for someone else.

Camel Case

You see it in titles and names like WordPress and WikiLeaks. These are words which have the specialty of not being the usual lower or upper case. These words have more than one initial capital letter. Not lovingly accepted by Grammarians and dictionaries, yet. Still, a proper name for a company/ business should be spelled correctly, the way the company itself spells it out on their business cards, website headers and so on. Thus we get camel case.

I don’t 100% agree with it, or feel comfortable using it. I tend to split the name of this blog into two words versus typing it out as WordGrrls. What do you think about the issue of camel case?

I first read the term ‘camel case’ on Terribly Write. I knew about spelling words this way but had not heard the name for it before then.

See also: NYTimes: Against Camel Case

Letters Never to Be Posted

At the site Unposted Letters the idea is to write a letter the way you really want to write it but don’t send it to the addressee.

The Unposted Letters Project is a safe place to speak without fear, criticism or consequence. No one will interrupt or judge. It is a place where we can expose all of our feelings and thoughts about anyone, or about ourselves. Whether it’s been positive or negative, we can tell someone what they have meant to our life. This is an opportunity to create your own unique page to silently say anything to anyone, in a book that will shout it out loud.

What have you left unsaid, unwritten? Think of someone you would like to have a chance to say something at a time when you knew they would actually listen. In life we can not really talk and listen at the same time. All too often everyone seems to be talking and no one is listening. Everyone wants to be heard but they don’t stop talking long enough to hear someone else.

I’d like to write a letter to my Grandparents (one each cause I have different things to say to each of them and different ways of saying the same thing as well). I’d like to write to Great Aunts who are gone, were already old women when I knew them. I’d like to tell them all kinds of good things because people seem (to me) to focus far too much on negative things that might never happen.

I’d like to write a letter to my nephew and nieces, though they are all still here and I will even be seeing them later today. There are so many things I can tell them. Things they are not ready to hear, not mature enough, not experienced enough and the ironic thing is that when they are ready to hear them they will already know them, will have lived my old experiences themselves. Life is funny like that. It just keeps on going until it’s over.

The Meaning of Grrl

Reposted from my own personal blog: That Grrl. (Just because Grrl is a strange four letter word).

The Meaning of Grrl – Originally posted November 17, 2005.

There are probably people out there who see ‘grrl’ and think I’m just a really bad speller. I’m a fairly good speller actually. Grrl is not a typo (a typographical error, for those who stopped to wonder). Grrl is a fun way to say girl when you mean woman but don’t want to go into all of that. You see, woman is such a complicated word. Being a woman is hard enough without actually calling yourself a woman all the time. It’s simpler to just not think about it all at once.

So someone invented Grrl. It may have been Bonnie, I’m not 100% sure if she started the word itself or was just the first one to pick it up as a web domain. I’ve met Bonnie, online. She does justice to Grrl. She’s fun and yet not an air head. She’s doing things, accomplishing things and getting somewhere. She’s a Grrl and a woman. But, grrl just takes off some of the pressure of being a woman.

You see, women are supposed to be Super. That’s super with a capital ‘S’ you notice. Not just any super. Super Woman! It is not easy being Super. You don’t get many days off, none really. You don’t get to hide in bed and cover your head and pretend the world went away. You don’t get the chance to do-over, use the backspace key or shift the workload. Super woman has to do it all, every day. Who can be that?

Grrls are imperfect and glad of it. We still have our personal power, our goals and our great moments, we just get to take the odd day off, goof up sometimes and have a lot more fun. Grrls are not girls however, don’t be confused. Girls are children. Grrls are women, just not crushed into the weight of the Iron Maiden of woman.

The 1A Post Title Here

A Book Inside has written about How to Write a Great and Effective Title:

Keep in mind; starting with the letter A is not mandatory for higher placements in listings online. For instance, starting with the letter D is good, C is better, B is great, but A is the best. Also, numbers generally precede letters in Web listings. 101 Ways to Learn the Game of Golf would be listed before An Easy Way to Learn the Game of Golf.

It may help you get ahead in a list of titles but choosing a title for your blog, your book or anything else is not really in your best interests. Think about it. What kind of quality information is going to be in a book where the marketing is more important than the book/ information itself.

Even in a blog or book about marketing I don’t think a title based on being first in a list or using keywords is a smart choice. To me it shows a lack of real integrity and gives the impression of insincerity and artificialness. I would not want to put my time into writing something I had put my heart into only to show it off as something that looks like a marketing campaign, fluff.

Three Things to do This Month

Three Things to do This Month:

  1. Have a hot shower with your favourite scented body soap. Take time to pamper yourself, right down to trimming your toenails.
  2. Write a real letter to someone you love. A letter that takes up two full pages, is written on real paper and requires a stamp to get delivered.
  3. Go through your clothes closet. Pull out anything you haven’t worn in the past year and recycle it. Try not to get soft-hearted about too many things – think of that poor support pole in your closet having to hold up all that stuff.

Homemakers magazine does this each month. I think it’s a great idea. Their current one (from the February/March issue) is Three Things to do This Winter: Walk in snowshoes. Take zinc for your immune system. Knit a pair of funky socks.

Write your own Three Things to do list.

Coffee Shop Confessional

I’m so used to typing rather than writing by hand it’s confusing my brain. I’m second guessing all my spelling cause it feels so unusual to be writing out each letter in the word. In my mind I see them coming out in type, fully spelled and sorted. The long hand way makes them all look less sure of themselves.

The drawing above is my latest Coffee Shop Confessional. I bended the rules. Instead of drawing on a napkin I used my notebook and I didn’t draw more than the one first thing that came to my mind. I also flubbed the name when I wrote it down at the coffee shop last night.